Either the Mennonite Church USA or the Brethren in Christ will soon receive an influx of about 2,500 members. Greg Boyd, co-founder and pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota is seeking a denominational home for his congregation. According to Mennonite World Review, Boyd and his church began a “yearlong commitment to exploring Anabaptism in May,” and will make a decision once “they’ve run out of questions” for the two denominations.
Once considered within the evangelical mainstream, Boyd created controversy in 2004 with a sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword,” which was then featured in a 2006 New York Times Op-ed,“Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock.” The article reported that Boyd preached the “Church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a ‘Christian nation’ and stop glorifying American military campaigns.”
In the immediate aftermath, a fifth of Woodland’s 5,000 members reportedly left the church, unsettled by Boyd’s apparent abandonment and disparagement of their convictions. That shift, according to Boyd, “got me on the radar screen of Mennonites, and they started inviting me to come and speak to them.” Explaining his transition, Boyd said: “The clearer I got on the kingdom of God … the more problems I had with American evangelicalism.” Following the sermon series, Boyd wrote The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church. In the ensuing years, the pastor and remaining congregants have found a home in the pacifist neo-Anabaptist community.
The megachurch pastor previously stirred controversy in 2000 with his book, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God. In this work, Boyd defended “Open Theism,” which he defines as “the view that God chose to create a world that included free agents, and thus a world where possibilities are real. The future is pre-settled, to whatever degree God wants to pre-settle it and to whatever degree the inevitable consequences of the choices of created agents have pre-settled it. But the future is also open to whatever degree agents are free to resolve possibilities into actualities by their own choices.”
Theologians including John Piper and Albert Mohler responded to Boyd, pointing out his dramatic departure from the mainstream of orthodox Evangelical theology. Mohler warned: “Most importantly, open theists argue that God cannot know what free creatures will choose or do in the future,” and “The doctrine of God is the central organizing principal (sic) of Christian theology … a shift in the doctrine of God–much less of this consequence–necessarily implies shifts and transformations in all other doctrines.”
Boyd, who has degrees from Yale and Princeton, is the author of multiple books, including The Myth of the Christian Religion: Losing Your Life for the Beauty of a Revolution and taught theology at Bethel University for 16 years.
Perhaps the greatest hurdle for Woodland Hills will be combining its evangelical megachurch culture with the simpler way of the Anabaptists. Boyd told the Mennonite World Report: “Woodland Hills brings a very kind of non-Mennonite culture … I’ve been told that just the way I carry myself isn’t very Mennonite.”